You can read 9 more articles this month
BRITISH mining giant Vedanta “has a duty of care” to nearly 2,000 Zambian farmers who say their water supply was poisoned by a subsidiary of the company, the Supreme Court heard today.
Vedanta Resources is being blamed for turning Zambia’s longest river bright blue with pollution, but the London-based company claims the farmers cannot seek compensation through the English courts.
The farmers filed suit in London after facing major obstacles to justice in Zambian courts. They say their land has been ruined by toxic waste spewing from a pit run by Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), Vedanta’s subsidiary.
Richard Hermer QC, representing the farmers, told the court today that the mine is “churning out toxic waste a thousand times over the levels it’s supposed to be, while Vedanta undoubtedly knows about it.”
Mr Hermer argued there was “20 years of case law in which parent companies have been found capable of owing duties to people impacted by their subsidiaries.”
He said Vedanta’s appeared to have accepted this in publications where it is alleged to have said: “Our board is ultimately responsible.”
He showed the court Vedanta’s corporate social responsibility documents, in which the company apparently takes credit for replacing a smelter at a KCM site in Zambia to reduce environmental impact.
Vedanta is also alleged to have developed a central unit to deal with sustainability issues, suggesting that the British parent company accepted that it was responsible for the environmental impact of its Zambian subsidiary.
Samarendra Das, a campaigner with environmental group Foil Vedanta, told the Morning Star that the case centred on “whether the UK is the best forum to hear and decide claims of gross human rights violations committed abroad.”
Mr Das explained that “British-domicile companies do not dispute the fact that there is, at least, claims to be decided against their own subsidiaries operating abroad."
He said: “This shows a gap in the governance of British-registered companies by the British authorities that, despite the rhetorical commitment, no proper mechanisms have been put in place to ensure that those UK companies monitor and control their business activities abroad.”
He noted that Vedanta “enjoyed signifiant profits and tax concessions” while registered in London.
The two-day hearing at the Supreme Court concluded today and a judgement is expected in April.
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by joining the 501 club.
Just £5 a month gives you the opportunity to win one of 17 prizes, from £25 to the £501 jackpot.
By becoming a 501 Club member you are helping the Morning Star cover its printing, distribution and staff costs — help keep our paper thriving by joining!
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by become a member of the People’s Printing Press Society.
The Morning Star is a readers’ co-operative, which means you can become an owner of the paper too by buying shares in the society.
Shares are £1 each — though unlike capitalist firms, each shareholder has an equal say. Money from shares contributes directly to keep our paper thriving.
Some union branches have taken out shares of over £500 and individuals over £100.
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by donating to the Fighting Fund.
The Morning Star is unique, as a lone socialist voice in a sea of corporate media. We offer a platform for those who would otherwise never be listened to, coverage of stories that would otherwise be buried.
The rich don’t like us, and they don’t advertise with us, so we rely on you, our readers and friends. With a regular donation to our monthly Fighting Fund, we can continue to thumb our noses at the fat cats and tell truth to power.
Donate today and make a regular contribution.